Wednesday, 20 August 2008

the 1st German "Library Act "- vision and reality

Following the IFLA-chairwoman's slogan "Libraries on the Agenda" I want to write about Library Acts, especially in Germany:
A "Library Act" provides a sustainable basis for maintaining libraries . More than a half of the European countries possess a "Library Act" (e.g. Spain, Poland, France, Estonia etc.). Let alone countries like the United States, Canada and Australia. (Some of the legal texts can be found here. Unfortunately the legislation pages of UNESCO Libraries Portal seems to be not updated for a long time)
In Germany there is no national "Library Act": Until now only the federal states are able to enact "Library Acts". On the 4th of July Thuringia made use of this federal competence. So Thuringia ist the first federal state of Germany that has a "library Act". But efforts started several years ago, mainly pushed by the DBV. They created a prototype of a "Library Act". Obviously Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania will follow. Even in Berlin librarians call for a "Library Act". Hopefully these efforts yield results.
The DBV demands that the "Library Acts" not only should describe the state-of-the-art but have to consist of details regarding tasks and funding. Especially the funding should be embellished on a grand scale. Concerning funding the Thuringia's "Library Act" (§5) declares that libraries are funded by their supporting organizations. So it remains as it was: the funding of public libraries remains voluntarily. In view of local authorities' financial difficulties this is very disappointing for the "Library Act" should strengthen the libraries' situation and position. Therefore it seems to be an irony when Thuringia's minister of education Bernhard Müller remarks (as the Federal President Horst Köhler before) that the libraries have to be on the political agenda.


librariandreamer said...

Margaret Ostrander from Minneapolis wrote to me:
"Interesting. Here in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul in the U.S. the two different library systems serving these cities operate under quite different funding models. Both, of course, receive their funding base from their city government. St. Paul is known to have a much more stable base with the city, while the Minneapolis system has tended to be much more volatile, sometimes leading to severe funding cuts. For example, some libraries were "shuttered" in the recent past, although they have since been re-opened. And, the recent merger of the Minneapoolis Public Library system with the surrounding Hennepin County Library system is now an interesting process to watch, as two methods of getting funding (the city government versus from the county) become blended."

Steffi_S. said...

Anne Mostad-Jensen from Minneapolis wrote to me:

Hi Steffi,

...I am not sure how much you have read up on Library Acts
in the United States. Honestly, I didn't know much about
Library Acts until you sent me your blog post, so I did
a little research.

In the United States we have the Museum and Library Services
Act ( The MLSA provides incentive funding for programs (in rural or economically depressed areas), but most of the control is on the local level.

We also have State Library Acts or Statutes. Here is the
one for Minnesota, the state I live in:

Beyond that libraries are generally organized at the regional,
county, or municipal level depending on the density of
the population.

Overall, I have a number of thoughts on Library Acts in the United States.

First, they are overly wordy and full of jargon (much like my email!), so they could be revised so the documents are less convoluted. If
people have a hard time reading a document how are they going
to support it legislatively?

Secondly, I think Library Acts are important because they set a foundation or standard of library services and are linked to the
provision of funding and give libraries a more legitimate place on the political agenda, which is pretty much what you stated in your blog post.

Finally, I think more could be done to even out funding or address more of the inequalities that arise when funding is on the local level. It creates disparities in library services when it is left to the local level.

The structure or layout of statutes in some states attempt to address these disparities, but perhaps it is not enough. Ohio is one state where this has been done. Here is an article about library funding in Ohio:
Ohio's libraries have done well when many other libraries in the United States have struggled with budget problems. It seems that you face many of these same issues in Germany, of having local funding problems. Is this right?

I don't have a blog yet, but have decided it is finally time to start one. As soon as I think of a clever name for my blog I will start one.

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